Rethinking youth fitness (part 5)

Posted on January 15, 2016

(Last Updated On: April 6, 2016)

This is a seven part series.

The teamwork argument

“Sports teach so many other values. Teamwork, getting along with others, sportsmanship…” yada, yada.

Many sports involve minimal to zero teamwork. My girlfriend had games where barely a person hit a ball. Sure, she needed some help behind her to field a ball once every 20 minutes or whatever. But she didn’t need to work with them much. With dominant pitchers, it’s more like, “I hope these fucks don’t screw up my ERA.”

-> After reading this, she wanted me to clarify she never said that. “I never said that to anyone…but I may have thought it.”

If you’re a tennis player, you don’t even have to talk to another person.


UFC fighter.



In baseball, 99% of hitting involves your teammates being largely irrelevant.

Most of basketball seems to have forgotten what teamwork is. Kobe is getting all this praise as he does his retirement tour, but the guy was Stretch Armstrong with Spider Man hands for 20 years reaching and sticking his hands to the ball as much as possible. He’s a notoriously crappy teammate. (As evidenced by no free agents wanting to play with him.) The guy is like the worst shooter in the league right now, it’s almost as if he thinks the backboard is the hoop, yet he’s still incapable of passing, is still averaging 30 minutes per game, and is the highest paid player in the league! He’s noosed the Lakers these last few years salary cap wise. If he cared about the team, he’d sit on the bench some more. All this and he’s considered a top 10 player of all-time!

Even in the ultimate team sport, football wide receivers are notoriously selfish people. Regularly called divas. One of the most selfish of all-time, Terrell Owens, is about to go in the Hall of Fame.

The team aspect of Track and Field involves handing a piece of metal to someone else.

It must have taken years to achieve this level of collaboration. (Credit: AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

It must have taken years to achieve this level of collaboration.
(Credit: AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Yes, some sports require teamwork. But the way this argument is presented is dumbfounding. It’s said as if there is no other way to communicate teamwork to a kid. When it comes to being an adult, the teamwork needed is virtually guaranteed to not include sports. Yet, the way we preach learning teamwork is through sports? There are innumerable other ways to learn the intangibles people talk about with athletics.

Sport teamwork is different

Unless you’re some Wall Street or Silicon Valley nut jobthe teamwork you experience in sports is likely very different than that of a modern work place. Sports are often much, much more serious.

In hockey, when you slide across the ice to block the puck, for the team, your oralmaxofacial can be permanently disrupted.

Miss your assignment in volleyball and someone might get a spike to the face.

When the quarterback leaves his receiver out to dry, someone’s health is at risk. Significantly at risk.

Found on DeadSpin.

Found on DeadSpin.

When a lineman screws up his assignment and the quarterback gets buried in the ground because of it, when the quarterback gets hit as hard as possible by another human and doesn’t even see it coming, not only is the quarterback’s health at risk –he has elevated odds of dementia- but then the team’s season is at risk.

A few months of bad months performance? Half the season? Your coach’s job is at risk.

I was in college when Facebook came out. I believe it was Princeton at the time, who suspended players because photos showed up of them on Facebook drinking, and they were underage. The head coach got in some trouble too.


That was nine years ago. No, he didn’t get fired. We made the playoffs that year. He’s still the coach!

The level of regular intensity in sports is incomparable to anything in a regular business setting. Like who interacts like this in the corporate world? This happens to such a degree, there are innumerable stories, causing us to make rules, about parental interaction at little league games. (Yet we do sports to teach sportsmanship, right?) The last little league game I went to the umpire was maybe 15, which is common. Parents were telling her, “Looked a little outside blue!” Do adults regularly criticize kids like this in any other setting?

Do you know why Tim Tebow got famous initially? It wasn’t religion. When he was a junior in high school, he played an entire half of football with a broken leg.

You have a cough in the regular world, you stay at home. Your “teammates” will be fine. You have a broken leg on a sports field? Your coach says toughen up -quoted in the above video!- because your team needs you.

-> Please recognize this is a 17 year old doing this. A 17 year old risking his health to this magnitude, in the name of team(work). A 17 year old who became one of the most famous athletes of this century, who STILL canNOT make money playing football.

In sports => give it up for the team = teamwork. “It” can mean your health, notoriety, your career, money, whatever. In business, nobody recommends this. Nobody recommends not taking more money in the name of the company. Significantly risking your health in the name of the company. Sure, some companies do this, but we don’t celebrate those companies. We denounce them.

Bob Kraft / Bill Belichick / New England Patriots = hero. Rockefeller = villain.

Few make decisions to where the entire company is at risk. Few make a single mistake which can jeopardize an entire year or their boss’s job. Screw up for a few months? You probably get a warning, or put on a performance improvement plan. How often does someone’s physical health come into play with a business decision? Yet this is routine, every week type stuff in sports.

A person from another company gives you a hard time, so you uh, send him a passive-aggressive email? Do an interview with The New York Times? A guy does this to you on a playing field, and this might happen,

Or this,

You’re disliked on the soccer pitch? Someone may throw a piece of concrete at your head, and kill you. (<- This was last year!)

When you forget to email someone, or you’re not as nice as you could be, you…I don’t even know what? Scream at the person they’re a pussy and to suck it up? Because this is how 99% of the conversations I had on football teams went. The things we said to one another, the way we interacted, would put a lot of us at best, out of work, if said in an office environment. At worst, some of us would likely be thrown in jail. The default communication method for many coaches is screaming and obscenities. Just watch a game and notice how often a coach loses their shit. Jim Harbaugh is considered a top tier coach. He is a LUNATIC on the sidelines.

Jim harbaugh gif 1

Oh, and great sportsmanship, right?

That’s not how you want to learn to communicate with others. That’s not how you want to learn how an authority figure should act when you end up in an office setting. “Oh, I’m the boss; I should scream more often to get what I want.”

-> We’ve been discussing interacting with your peers, but this brings up interacting with your boss, and another reality of sports: You become trained at being told what to do. Your schedule is made for you, your assignments are made for you, your entire life is thought out for you. Questioning if things are the right move is not the right move. There is a giant lack of independence. You’ve never had to think for yourself. Once the dictatorship is over, it can be hard to say, have the initiative to start your own business. You’ve never not been told what to do next. Short of a very few examples (quarterback; pitcher), you’ve never made your own orders. Getting to a position where you’re making assignments might be tough.

Locker room talk is a thing, and it stays in the locker room for a reason. One of the same reasons locker rooms consist of one sex. Even if you got great with teamwork from a sport, 15 years of playing a sport involves 15 years of teamwork with the same sex. We probably don’t need to discuss men and women are different.

This is especially problematic for men (who already have a hard enough time understanding women). Women are rising more and more in the office place. Beyond social stigma, a persuasive argument can be made this is due to inherent differences between men and women. That the needs of the economy are becoming more and more suited to the female body and brain, such as women’s better ability to empathize. Empathy, a thing which is not computed with male sports or male dialogue. (Not coincidentally, all workplace social rules are due to men. Verbal abuse, sexual harassment, bullying. In other words, locker room talk.) Yet even women aren’t immune to the intensity sports can bring out of you:

female coach tantrum GIF

All this, compared to getting a few people together, of both sexes, building some project, entering a competition? That thing that every middle or high schooler can do? And with no physical repercussions? Or a part-time job once old enough? Learning teamwork in a business setting, so when you’re older you have a background of implementing teamwork…in a business setting?

That’s probably going to be more helpful.

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